George Eagar – In memorium
A tribute by William “Billy” Butt (WCD 1952 – 63)
I remember George Eagar’s very first day as a Maths teacher at Wesley College. The year was 1957 and at the age of 11 years in a class called “Prep A Lower” I was one of his first pupils. In my memory I can still see him standing there slightly nervous in his new black teacher’s gown in that rather dreary old classroom adjacent to the main assembly hall in the school’s former premises in St. Stephen’s Green. My fellow pupils included the Ennis brothers (Arthur and Desmond), Ethnie Poole, Kenneth Flynn, Arthur Widdess and several others who sat behind those old worn out dark brown desks cluttered with signatures carved by pupils, not only of our era, but of years and decades gone by. This was the time when Wesley College was at the dawn of it’s transformation. A development fund was launched whilst the school crest was being modernised and the embryo of what is today our great school in Ballinteer was being conceived.
The arrival of modern thinking young teachers like George Eagar lifted the somewhat formal and stuffy atmosphere at Wesley onto a modern arena that provided a new form of interaction between teachers and pupils. Whereas youngsters like myself would be petrified to stand in the same breathing space as some of the older stiff upper-lipped teachers, we would always feel very comfortable when young teachers like George Eager or Ernest Armitage walked into the classroom.
What I remember most about George was how easy he was to get along with. He was a great listener. He had a terrific sense of humour and he almost always had a smile on his face, even when he was explaining how “in a right angled triangle the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides!” He always had time for us and he had a way about him that really appealed to us youngsters. In short – we really liked him and it was apparent that he liked us too. Even if one didn’t always pay attention in every lesson, one always listened attentively in George’s classes because he always made his lessons interesting. Unlike many other teachers He was never given a negative sounding nickname, at least not during my years at Wesley. To us he was always “George”.
George often worked evenings, staying on and watching over our homework hours, and making sure we all brushed our teeth before going to bed. He would often stand by my dormitory door and tell short interesting stories before turning off the lights. I remember one particular night when the lights were suddenly switched on in the middle of the night and George rushed into the room and told us all to get up quickly, put on our dressing gowns and follow him out onto the balcony. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I got up quickly believing this to be yet another of several fire drills we used to have in that old wooden building. But once out on the balcony one could see George pointing up to the clear sky and telling us all to look up at the Russian Satellite “Sputnik” as it passed over Ireland. George didn’t want us to miss that. He told us that this would be a memory that we would share for the rest of our lives.
Now in the evening of my own life as my mind winds back to those days over half a century ago, I can feel a slight shudder of emotion in my fingertips on the keyboard of my computer as I write about this man who meant so much to me and my fellow pupils all those years ago. When George stepped into my old classroom that day in 1957, a new chapter in the history of Wesley College was being written. We were learning how to “prove all things” and teachers like George were teaching us how to “hold fast that which is good”. That same chapter was sadly closed recently when George left us. And everything that has transpired in between can only be described as a lot of warm memories of Wesley College that I and George’s other past pupils still cherish.
William “Billy” Butt
WCD 1952 – 63